Main Content

History of the Museum of Religions

The collection was founded in 1927 by Protestant theologian and religious philosopher Rudolf Otto, who became well known internationally for his work “The Idea of the Holy” (“Das Heilige”) in 1917. With support from the “Marburger Universitätsverein” (Marburg University Association), Otto acquired objects from different religions and traditions while travelling throughout Asia. Gifts and permanent loans from missionaries to Africa and Oceania began expanding the collection in the 1930s. The collection has also grown through purchases, donations, endowments, and foundations; of particular significance was a bequest from the Protestant theologian Heinrich Hackmann, which is now part of the Marburg University Library.

Over the course of its history, the museum changed location several times within Marburg. It opened in 1929 with an exhibition on "Foreign Relics" in what is now the Art Museum. It was not until 1950 that it was possible to permanently move a large part of the collection to the Landgrave’s Castle, the highest building in Marburg. In 1981, the collection was moved to its current location in the Old District Court (Altes Landgericht) located directly below the castle, after the then-director Dr. Martin Kraatz campaigned to convert the old court building into a museum rather than demolish it as planned.